I have traditionally been big on setting goals, and have enjoyed thinking of plans for the new year. This year, I want to try something totally different.
In the past, I have often set goals in each of the different areas of responsibility in my life. I have preferred to set goals that had a clear achievement moment, and have favored goals that were easier to put in my task manager. This provided a nice sense of accomplishment when I completed a goal and checked off the list, and I felt like they motivated me to be and do better.
2018 has been a year of significant personal discovery for me. One major thing that I have learned is that I am exceedingly hard on myself, and tend to view the world in black and white. Combined with my natural goal-setting, this has had the unforeseen consequence of setting myself up for repeated and measurable failure. It is very easy to get down on myself when I can review my goals and clearly see which ones I have not yet completed. And sadly, I have realized that this is much more common and instinctual for me than celebrating my successes.
So for 2019, I instead want to focus on general principles that I want to incorporate more fully in my life. A key aspect of my plan is to intentionally embrace vague and fuzzy goals. I hope this will have a couple effects. One is to help me get more comfortable with ambiguity and living in the grey. Not everything can or needs to be clearly defined and articulated, and I need to sensitize myself to this reality. Another effect I hope for is to remove the possibility of marking these complete, or of identifying them as unfulfilled. With each goal, there will be a spectrum, and I hope to nudge myself in the direction of identifying what I have done, and looking at where I can still go.
Essentially, I am trying to let go of expectations and approach myself with curiosity.
1. Be intentional
It is far too easy to allow life to happen to me, and I want to instead be more deliberate in my choices. Eventually, I want this to include deciding what I want to do on my phone before opening it, and then doing just that, and turning it off again. This could look like weekly and daily planning, although it might not. This might include task lists, but it also might not. This could look like deciding I am spend an evening playing Breath of the Wild, or it might not. This will hopefully mean sometimes setting everything of mine aside and just being present with my wife or with my kids.
2. Be present
When I feel overwhelmed, the natural reaction is to withdraw from the moment and numb, typically with something on my phone. This goal doesn’t mean that I will never be on my phone, but in keeping with my first goal, I want to decide that is want I am going to do, and then do it completely. I don’t expect to be perfect at this, especially at first, but I hope to explore ways in which to practice being present. One major area of focus is to be present with my own thoughts and feelings and not run away from them. I need to get to know myself better.
3. Be curious
So much of dissatisfaction is due to a mismatch in expectations and reality. Often, I cannot control reality, but I can start to adjust my expectations. My hope is to develop the skill of letting go of expectations entirely, and just observing what happens. When built upon the first two goals, my hope is that this will allow me to be in any moment and situation and just be. Be authentic. Be genuine. Be me. And by doing this, I will come to know more and more of who I truly am—not who I have projected that I should be.
I have such an amazing support structure in my life. My wife is kind and understanding and supportive, and I couldn’t ask for more in a partner. We will continue to improve our relationship and communication and tackle all of life’s challenges together. My children love me intensely; almost too much at times, bordering on hero worship. I need to remember that they love me as I am right now, and stop worrying about letting them down. We are blessed to live close to loving extended family, and I have a great job. Our church community is a great support and opportunity for selfless service. I am allowing myself to get the help that I need.
All in all, the future is bright. I look forward to a more relaxed and enjoyable year. Stress will come, but as I am intentional, present, and curious, I will respond as best I can.